Welcome to this week’s #ExperienceOfTheWeek, everyone. Today, it’s all about hot wheels of a true veteran – Happy Van Tours and their Volkswagen T2 Vans in the beautiful region of Algarve, Portugal. It was our pleasure to do an interview with Paulo, the founder of Happy Van, and a truly happy soul with so much energy and knowledge about his homeland. We’ve learned where did the idea for launching Happy Van come from, what has the region of Algarve has to offer, and Paulo even told us what was one of the most unforgettable moments he experienced on one of his tours. Let’s dive into the details, shall we?
Q1: Hi Paulo, how are you doing? How do you like our homepage picture? 😉
Hi there! I’m okay. Hope you are safe and healthy too! I love your homepage picture. It has a VW Van like the ones we use in our tours! You could not choose a better car to represent trips and tours, freedom and discovery, and also the scenery is absolutely fab! 🙂
Q2: Let’s dive in. Tell us about the story of Happy Van. How did it all start? Where does the name come from?
Well, Happy Van was born in 2017, from a dream that I have to contribute in my meager measure for a better world!
The search for happiness in me and in others was important for my choice. The time had come to chart a new path, one that fulfilled me deeply and that could contribute to the well-being of others (our visitors and our local residents). And what better way to do it than to show the richness of our Portugal, particularly in the Algarve region? The best of people, nature, heritage, gastronomy, arts, history, uses, and customs of this region is what we constantly seek to convey to those who visit us, with the simplicity and proximity that characterizes us.
Inspired by this journey in search of happiness and in what the vans that accompany us transmit to us, the name was naturally born: Happy Van.
Q3: Portugal is an amazing destination and I bet there are dozens of things to show to fellow travelers in each region. How many guides do you have in your team? Are you all locals?
Portugal is really surprising. From north to south of the country it is a constant discovery, even for those who have always lived here.
We have usually 4 guides that collaborate with Happy Van on different tours and events. Two are from the Algarve and two from the center-north of the country.
Q4: Your selection of experiences has no end. What are the most popular tours among travelers who come to you?
The tours and experiences we have are intended to reach different audiences who travel to the Algarve to live experiences that are closer to their personal “tastes”.
Some experiences are most sought after by young people or young adults, and others that are more popular with adults or seniors. Many times it depends also of the nationality of people that visit us, if they are a family or a group of friends, and most of all on what our visitors intend to take from the Algarve they visit. For us, the most important thing is that travelers remember the Algarve for what it really is: A sunny dream destination, full of history and tradition, with super friendly people, a very rich gastronomy, and a wonder of nature, with the most beautiful landscapes and beaches in the world.
If we speak of the experiences, the most popular in the summer are the Wine Tours, Food Tours, Nature Tours, Sunset and Night Photography Tours. The rest of the year we have a little bit of everything.
Q5: One of your experiences that you offer is Family Clean & Safe Tours? What do these “Clean & Safe” packs stand for?
We are going through a critical time in the global history of humanity. COVID-19 brought an extra need for people to feel safe and protected, but the desire to know and travel around the world has not stopped. It is necessary to create mechanisms that protect us from this pandemic.
This country has done a lot to ensure that security is on the agenda and the small number of infected people in the Algarve region is a good example of this. All tour operators have the Clean & Safe seal with a well-defined protocol for controlling the spread of the virus. Happy Van has its own regulation for this purpose and measures that guarantee us the maximum possible protection.
With all this in mind, we have created tour packages for people of the same group or family to travel privately with us and to enjoy various experiences throughout the day, that we call: Family Clean & Safe Tours. In addition, we do not charge the price for private trips and we even offer an extra discount. It is a great way to know the Algarve in safety.
Q6: You also hold various events, including weddings, educational camps, and photo events. How popular are these?
We have events throughout the year. The most popular are weddings where we provide entertainment, transportation and photography services with our vans for the bride and groom and their guests. The VW T2 are classic vehicles that are great for these events and with them photos and videos are produced to match memorable moments. In addition, we have some requests for photo sessions with the vans that we very much like to do.
During this year we are also holding an event integrated into the 365 Algarve program, from the Algarve Tourism Region, with the name: The Algarve – an Educated Journey. The next dates will be August 29, September 5 and September 19. We will take a guided tour of three different spaces, there will be a musical session with the Fad’Nu group that takes us back to the influences of our music, a theater on the history of the Algarve and a craft workshop. It is a very complete event with great demand, of which we are very proud and which is available for booking on our website.
Other events will emerge soon as we are continuously producing new experiences.
Q7: Today many people travel and plan their itineraries on their own. Why would you recommend booking one of your experiences to our travelers?
Traveling and planning your itineraries on your own is challenging, but nowadays the task is made easier by the internet. However, as much as we are able to design a good route, local knowledge is something we cannot reach on the internet, and much of the experience is lost in the absence of this element.
I say this from my own experience. When I arrived in the Algarve to start this project, I came with a book full of notes of places to visit and people to know. I was lucky enough to go to a wine fair in the Algarve mountains, a little-publicized event, where I started to meet local wine producers who took me to other people, other paths, and other experiences. I can tell you that the notebook that I had was practically discarded after that day because what was truly genuine was made known to me through personal contact.
So, even if you like to plan on your own, never forget to include some of the existing experiences in the Algarve with people or companies who have the knowledge to give you more. I am sure you will benefit from those experiences.
Q8: Travel industry is in uncharted waters right now but we all hope travel will rebound soon. What does the situation in Portugal look like right now? Are you already back in business fully?
At the moment our tourism is more internal, but gradually we are beginning to see a greater opening to the outside. The country is prepared to receive people safely and it is all a matter of time and patience. The Algarve is a Portuguese region with an excellent climate and so a tourist destination throughout the year. It is a great place to have lunch on a terrace, on a sunny day, in the middle of winter.
I believe that in a short time we will recover from this storm, and valuing local resources we will create new tourism, more sustainable, more conscious, more Algarve!
Q9: Coming to a foreign country as a traveler it often calls for unforgettable stories. Can you think of any faux-pas or other unforgettable experience you’ve had recently with your customers?
If you don’t mind, I’ll tell you a touching story.
A lady booked a Happy Van Sunset Tour, especially for her brother. It was her, her son and his girlfriend and her brother.
Her brother’s dream was to have a van like one of ours. You cannot imagine his joy at seeing the van, getting into it, and taking pictures behind the wheel. It was contagious.
This tour took him by surprise and was booked on a noble purpose. This man was in a wheelchair, in a terminal phase of his life, although he did not know it officially. I had one of the most wonderful sunsets I remember, and it was enough to look at the sunset in his eyes to realize that this was the trip of a lifetime.
Very moving and unforgettable.
Q10: Last but not least, what is your favorite spot in your region that you’d take your friends to see or experience? Tips from a true local are always worth it 🙂
Oh, that is a secret. Lol. There are lots of special places around here, and one of my favourites is on the top of a cliff, near the Black Rock in Lagos. Taking my friends there to watch the sunset is truly magical.
Book some of the most popular tours by Happy Van here:
Lagos: Algarve Night Photography Tour in a Volkswagen T2 Van
Albufeira: Algarve Nature Tour in a Volkswagen T2 Van
Portimão: Algarve Heritage Tour in a Volkswagen T2 Van
Albufeira: Algarve Night Photography Tour in a Volkswagen T2 Van